Peer Assisted Learning (PAL)

Peer Assisted Learning

Peer learning takes place in a variety of ways across the university. Some departments have formal peer learning schemes already in place; informally, students are engaged in peer learning in study spaces across campus.

Peer-Assisted Learning (PAL) is a type of peer learning support which involves:

  • regularly-scheduled sessions in which students can engage with the content of a specific module (selected by students in consultation with module leaders)
  • sessions facilitated by trained PAL Leaders
  • a focus on collaborative discussion and sharing rather than teaching
  • sessions designed to engage students in thinking, clarifying, analysing, critiquing, and consolidating their learning

PAL sessions are typically (but not always) embedded in 1st year undergraduate modules, and can therefore assist new students who are getting used to university study.

Information for students

Want to find out more?

What happens in PAL sessions?

PAL sessions focus on what student participants want to discuss. PAL Leaders use a variety of activities aimed at giving students ample opportunities to collaborate with their peers to:

  • think more deeply about course material
  • consolidate understanding of core concepts
  • evaluate and critique information

PAL helps students to adjust to university-level study and helps in developing a range of interpersonal skills. Regular attendance at PAL sessions has been proven to build student academic confidence.

How do I Become a PAL Leader?

PAL Leaders are 2nd and 3rd year students who volunteer an hour or so of their time each week to help their peers. There are many proven benefits to volunteering as a PAL Leader:

  • participating in a wider community of practice
  • quality-assured, highly interactive training in small-group facilitation techniques
  • development of a variety of skills: leadership; teamwork, interpersonal and organisational skills
  • increased confidence in own learning
  • opportunity to help others
  • York Award recognition

Responsibilities include:

  • promoting the sessions
  • facilitating discussion
  • sharing experiences
  • being supportive of problems students might be experiencing in academic work
  • signposting students to relevant help
  • working alongside other PAL leaders
  • helping 1st year students gain confidence to ask questions during the PAL sessions and of their lecturers
  • attending weekly debrief sessions with PAL coordinators

You will not be expected to teach or give any answers to academic questions or coursework.

The following departments are looking for PAL Leaders to lead sessions with first year students on the following modules for Spring Term 2019:

  • Electronic Engineering (Mathematics; Analogue Electronics and Physics)
  • Economics (Statistics 1)
  • Archaeology (History and Theory)
  • Biochemistry

If you are interested in registering to become a PAL Leader on any of these modules, please complete the 2018/19 registration form.


Information for staff

Want to find out more?

We are not able to support any further PAL schemes for Spring 2019. However, we are taking enquiries for PAL to begin in Autumn 2019 so please get in touch soon to start the ball rolling.

Please email

What is the Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) pilot?

The Learning Enhancement team is currently piloting a framework which will assist departments in developing their own PAL schemes. The framework will:

  • introduce staff and students to the principles and values of the PAL approach
  • support staff and students in identifying an appropriate module in which PAL may be embedded
  • provide training and support for second and third year students to become PAL leaders
  • assist in the implementation and evaluation of pilot PAL schemes

Why implement PAL?

PAL has many benefits. The focus of PAL sessions is on the process of learning and how to get answers. Students who attend peer-led sessions are engaging in a wider community of practice and therefore feel integrated into their discipline more quickly. Students report increased confidence in their learning, as well as improved interpersonal skills, teamwork, and collaborative problem solving.

PAL Leaders also benefit. They receive quality-assured, highly interactive training. They learn key skills in facilitating small-group collaborative learning. They develop their interpersonal skills and leadership qualities; volunteering as a PAL Leader helps to improve their own academic performance as well as knowing that they're helping others to develop confidence.

Benefits for departments include:

  • balancing module feedback in real-time
  • more efficient minor issue resolution

PAL is known to help with student engagement and retention (Dawson et al, 2014).


We are happy to visit your department to discuss how PAL can enhance student learning and be a useful addition to your programme design. Please contact Tamlyn Ryan and Francis Duah: